‘Let’s call it what it is’: Hall of Famer Nik Lewis takes aim at Alouettes for putting ‘bullseye’ on fired head coach Khari Jones

Photo courtesy: RFB Sport Photography/CFLAA

Hall of Fame receiver Nik Lewis says he holds his former teams to a higher standard than any others and right now, the Montreal Alouettes are not living up to his expectations.

Sitting at 2-6 after another disappointing loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Alouettes are struggling to break out of their early season slump. In an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show on Friday, Lewis — who played in Montreal from 2015 to 2017 — became the latest CFL personality to take aim at the team and owner Gary Stern for their mid-season firing of head coach Khari Jones.

“They hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013; Khari comes in and makes the playoffs right when he takes over, makes the playoffs the next year after that and then the owner puts a bullseye on his head before the first game this year,” an exasperated Lewis told listeners.

“I even tweeted that last night. How do you put a bullseye on his head before game one and now it’s crickets when you clearly should have won those first two games?”

General manager Danny Maciocia pulled the trigger on Jones and defensive coordinator Barron Miles during the team’s Week 5 bye, forcing his way down onto the sidelines after a 1-3 start to the season. The team has posted an identical record since but hasn’t looked improved despite the coaching change, with Maciocia flubbing the transition in a way that  Lewis simply can’t forgive.

“You’re coming off a bye week, you should have won the first two games,” he stated. “It’s an over 80 percent chance to win when you change head coaches in the first game and they didn’t. The only team they beat was Ottawa.”

Maciocia cited persistent discipline issues as the reason for firing Jones, but that issue has only gotten worse since he took the reins himself. In the first four games of the season, the Alouettes committed 31 penalties for 275 yards. In the four games since the change in leadership, they’ve been flagged 37 times for 442 yards.

Like most around the CFL, Lewis believes the discipline storyline was simply an excuse constructed by Maciocia to justify the inevitable, allowing him to live out a dream of coaching the Alouettes alongside new defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe.

“Come on, man, let’s call it what it is. They wanted to get rid of people,” Lewis insisted. “I think the play for Danny Maciocia was always to be the head coach. I personally believe him and Thorpe are good friends, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to make Thorpe the head coach next year.

Those within the Alouettes organization have refuted those allegations, including outspoken owner Gary Stern. The Ontario-based steel magnate has dominated the CFL headlines this season due to his penchant for bold declarations on social media, but Lewis believes he hasn’t said nearly enough publicly about Maciocia’s poor performance.

“They’re no better, they’re no more disciplined, and I don’t hear anything out of that owner’s chair right now. It’s only crickets,” he accused. “But when Khari was the head coach, it seemed like something was going wrong.”

While right now the cost of those decisions may only be a mediocre season for the Alouettes, Lewis warns that the consequences will only grow. As more former players voice their criticism of Montreal’s management, the team’s reputation could be irreparably harmed.

“If you don’t respect your players, you don’t respect your coaches or organization, it can become a real bad situation,” Lewis cautioned. “When you’re a player, you look at all those things. How do players get treated by the team? How is the owner? How are all these things when I’m going to play somewhere? Then you become a place that you have to overpay everybody to go play there.”